Sunday, 4 April 2010

Land activist killed in Brazilian Amazon

Fires to clear the land in Para, Brazil 
A Brazilian land reform activist has been killed in the Amazon state of Para amid ongoing land disputes in the area.
Police said two men on motorbikes shot Pedro Alcantara de Souza five times in the head as he was riding a bicycle.
Mr Souza, the head of a union of landless farmers in Para, had led the occupations of large farms by peasants.
American nun Dorothy Stang was killed in the same region in 2005, after she had spent three decades working with peasants and small farmers there.
Contract killings
Mr Souza was the president of the small farmers' union in the town of Rendencao and had previously served for 14 years as the city councillor.
The police say his killing was carried out by hired gunmen, the BBC's Paulo Cabral reports From Sao Paulo.
No arrests have yet been made.
Mr Souza was shot just hours after the trial was delayed of the landowner accused of ordering the murder of Dorothy Stang, 73.
Vitalmiro Bastos Moura was originally convicted for the killing in 2007. The verdict was overturned a year later, but he is now due to face a third trial.
There were 20 documented killings in 2008 linked to land issues in the Amazon, a survey by the Catholic Church showed.
Brazil's agrarian reform laws state that unused farmland can be taken by the government and distributed among landless farmers.
There have been some improvements in recent years, but severe inequality persists - government figures show that nearly half the arable land in Brazil belongs to just 1% of the population.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Settlers Attack Farmers At Different Locations In The West Bank

Tuesday March 23, 2010 18:24 by Ghassan Bannoura - IMEMC News & Agencies

Armed Israeli settlers attacked on Tuesday Palestinian farmers in different locations in the occupied West Bank.
Settler spraying a Palestinian Muslim woman with wine at Hebron 
old city market southeren West Bank  – file 2009
Settler spraying a Palestinian Muslim woman with wine at Hebron old city market southeren West Bank – file 2009
In the village of Qauit, northern West Bank, settlers prevented dozens of farmers from reaching their land. Witnesses said that settlers used guns and threatened to open fire at the farmers should they try to reach their lands.

In central West Bank, armed settlers attacked farmers from Sinjel village, while working in their lands.

The famers said that they were plowing their lands when the settlers attacked them. Soldiers arrived at the location, and moved the settlers away but forced the villagers to leave their lands.

There are 500,000 settlers living in West Bank settlements. According to international law all Israeli settlement in the West Bank, including those in Jerusalem, are illegal.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Israeli attack on farmers threats life of sick boy

extracts from PCHR weekly report 18/2-23/2/10

Saturday, 20 February 2010  

At approximately 09:00, IOF moved into Safa village, north of Hebron. They fired tear gas canisters and sound bombs and chased Palestinian farmers to prevent them from accessing their agricultural lands. Israeli troops fired tear gas canisters at a number of houses, which threatened the life of 8-year-old Nasser Bassam 'Aadi, who suffers from several chronic diseases. According to his mother, a tear gas canister was fired at the house, which forced her to take him from the house to his uncle's house, as he faced extreme difficulties breathing.  

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Philippines: Farmer killed by soldiers in Maguindanao

ZAMBOANGA CITY: A government soldier was wounded after a farmer whom he tried to arrest for carrying a sickle near a checkpoint attacked him in the southern Philippines.
Other soldiers also manning the checkpoint fatally shot the farmer in Maguindanao’s Datu Piang town. The military blamed the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in the weekend attack. It said the man was a member of the MILF, an accusation strongly denied by the rebel group.

“The MILF has nothing to do with the attack. The reports we have received said the soldier was trying to arrest the farmer and confiscate his sickle, which he was using in his farm. Apparently an altercation ensued and for a still unknown reason, the farmer attacked and wounded the soldier. The farmer was later killed by soldiers,” said Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader.

Military officials could not be immediately reached to comment on the reports.

Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region, is under a state of emergency after the brutal murder of 57 people, including at least 31 journalists on November 23 in Ampatuan town.

Al Jacinto

source: Manila Times

Zapatista Communities Evicted For ‘Ecotourism’ Centres

February 2, 2010 by glasgowchiapassolidaritygroup 

Zapatistas denounce the eviction and destruction of an indigenous
community and accuse the government of aiming to set up ecotourism
'Reforestation' is the pretext used by the authorities to perform the
operation against the EZLN support bases.
Hermann Bellinghausen, La Jornada Sunday 31 January 2010, p. 7, originally
published in Spanish.
San Cristobal de las Casas, Jan 30. The Good Government Council (JBG) 'the
way ahead' (el camino del futuro), based in the Caracol of La Garrucha, on
Friday denounced the eviction and destruction of the indigenous community
of Laguna San Pedro, in the autonomous municipality of Ricardo Flores
Magon, which took place on 22nd January. The government's explicit
intention is to "reforest" the area and establish private ecotourism
centres in the Montes Azules, within the area of the biosphere reserve.
While they were burning the houses of the indigenous people, the JBG
relates, the Zapatistas were forced to board official helicopters to be
transferred to the city of Palenque, where they endured "hunger and cold"
in a hostel until they received attention from independent civil
As has happened before, the raid was preceded by an opportune
"application" on behalf of the Lacandon authorities based in Lacanjá
Chansayab, the legal owners of six hundred thousand hectares of the
forest, who are habitually pressing for the expulsion of the inhabitants
of Montes Azules.
Before the eviction, forces sent by "the bad federal and state (PRD)
Government of Juan Sabines Guerrero, and the municipal president of
Ocosingo, (PAN), Carlos Leonel Solórzano, conducted an operation using
federal police, accompanied by officials of the Federal Procurator of the
Environment (Profepa)" who with four helicopters flew over the village of
Laguna San Pedro "to terrify the population", said the JBG.
They state that state and federal police, army troops, government
officials, cameramen and journalists participated in the action. Once
arrived, the officials "talked with the men and women while the police
took the opportunity to burn the houses of the Zapatista support bases".
How is it possible that "the bad government speaks of dialogue while their
police and army burned the belongings of the compas," questions the JBG
from the Caracol of 'Resistance towards a new dawn' (Resistencia hacia un
nuevo amanecer). "How is it possible that the bad government evicts
indigenous people of Chiapas and Mexico while occupying their land for the
construction of ecotourism centres for the use of people from other
It should be mentioned that, after the eviction, the state government
announced that in coming days they were going to evict the population of
six more villages, including 6 de Octubre, another Zapatista community, as
well as Nuevo San Gregorio, Rancheria Corozal and Salvador Allende, among
others. They will join el Suspiro, Buen Samaratino, Nuevo Salvador Allende
and the aforementioned Laguna San Pedro, which the government call San
Pedro Guanil.
The former PAN governor of Yucatan, Patricio Patron Laviada, head of
Profepa, visited Chiapas in recent days and agreed to these actions with
the Secretary of Government of the state, Noe Castanon Leon, who on
Tuesday, 26th published the agreement to "reforest" and establish an
ecotourism centre within the Montes Azules biosphere reserve, presumably
to be undertaken by settlers from Nueva Palestina, secondary members of
the so-called "Lacandon community" and unpunished perpetrators of the
massacre at Viejo Velasco Suarez in 2006, also in Montes Azules.
The "ecotourism development" is part of the investment projects of the
businessman Moises Saba, who died weeks ago in a helicopter crash outside
Mexico City. Another project of his was the production of biodiesel on a
thousand hectares of rainforest. It appears that his projects are going
ahead, at least through the agency of the state and federal government.
According to Castanon Leon, they will promote the "sustainable uses" of
natural resources with projects of "community development" (for the
Lacandon and their partners), "environmental education and tourist
circuits of the Mayan route (la ruta maya)".
The JBG accuses the government of "lying and cheating, while Indian homes
burn," while the newspapers talk about the relocation of the Zapatistas of
Laguna San Pedro, they have their homes destroyed, their cooperative store
looted, and suffered the loss of their fruit trees, corn, beans, clothing
and tools of work. The material damage amounted to 585 thousand pesos, in
addition to the loss of their land, which, as the Zapatistas usually say,
is priceless.

Palestinian farmers are being treated like criminals

Amira Hass 

By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent

Under the cover of the incessant noise from the roads in the Hebron district, an anonymous Arab is perpetrating a serious crime: With a small hammer, he is digging a cistern so he can collect rainwater on his rocky land. Other such criminals have other methods of carrying out their evil schemes - which is to say, to prepare their land for cultivation of vegetables, grain, grapevines or almond trees.

"When someone builds a terrace on his land, he does it by taking a stone from the ground and adding it to the supporting wall once a month or once a week at most, so that it will be hard to discern the change," a Hebron resident said, explaining one of the methods.

Experience shows that if you use heavy equipment to rehabilitate the land, it immediately attracts Civil Administration inspectors and local settlers, and is followed shortly afterward by stop-work injunctions.


In the spirit of the popular saying along the lines of "Give a man a fishing rod rather than a fish," the European Union has been devoting attention and money to Palestinian farmers in recent years. These projects are designed to increase the income of poor agricultural families by allowing them to reclaim their land and expand the area under cultivation. The logic of "Give a man a fishing rod" also meets the need to return to traditional, environment-friendly agricultural methods and to heritage crop species, while making the best use of the water - thus also fighting desertification.

"And we were actually convinced that the Palestinians and Israel have a common interest: developing Area C, which supports the Palestinian economy, and projects that suit both sides in terms of the environment," said a European diplomat - who discovered he was mistaken.

Over the past two years, the Civil Administration in the Hebron area has issued dozens of stop-work orders to Palestinian farmers trying to reclaim, rehabilitate and prepare the land on their property. That is how European officials, representatives of the donor nations, discovered that Palestinians "are not allowed to move a stone or plant a tree or collect rainwater on their land without the approval of the Civil Administration," as one of them told Haaretz.

The Palestinians have several veteran agricultural associations that have been in operation since the early 1980s; they did not need the Europeans to invent the wheel for them. But they do need financial support.

The system works like this: The Europeans transfer the money to international non-governmental agencies, which have connections with the local organizations. One of these is the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, one of the oldest non-governmental Palestinian organizations. This organization received 2.25 million euros from the EU for a three-year project to reclaim and rehabilitate 2,000 dunams of agricultural land in the Hebron district. This means removing rocks and stones, leveling the ground, building terraces and stone fences, digging cisterns, and improving the access roads to the plots. The project involves several hundred families, all of which agreed to one of its main conditions: They pay for 25 percent of the cost of the work on their land.

About 70 percent of Palestinian agricultural land is located in areas that Israel has defined as Area C, under full Israeli control. Therefore, for the non-profit organizations, reclaiming the land is part of the political, popular struggle against its annexation to Israeli settlements and outposts. But for the farmers themselves, this battle also involves many risks, which many prefer not to take.

In the wake of the flood of stop-work injunctions that arrived in 2008 , said the European official, fewer farmers were willing to join the land reclamation project in Area C. Some borrowed money in order to pay for their share of the work. Then came the injunctions. The work was stopped, but their debts remained or their savings went down the drain. In several instances, the heavy equipment leased for the work was confiscated by the Civil Administration. This equipment requires a permit, because using it is considered "construction." Their owners were left without a source of income for several months. Some digger operators were arrested for several days. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees confirmed: Some of those who were signed up for the project changed their minds.

Ordered to stop

Nobody wants to experience what happened four months ago to the family of Rabi'a Jaber . In October, Israel Defense Forces soldiers and the Civil Administration raided the family's dry, rocky 10-dunam plot, southeast of Hebron. An IDF bulldozer scattered the stones of the terraces, turned over the ground and destroyed the cistern.

The work on the very rocky plot on the mountain slope opposite the Jaber home began in May 2008. A large Palestinian digger removed and split rocks, and dug a cistern for collecting rainwater; a smaller digger broke the split rocks into smaller stones and began to form terraces on the slope. The family - four brothers, 35 people - planned to plant grapes, olives and almonds, all crops that do not require irrigation. But in October 2008, when the work was almost complete, stop-work injunctions arrived.

According to the injunctions, it turns out that the Civil Administration had decided that they were invading land that was not theirs, even though the Jabers had documents indicating that taxes were paid on the land from the time of Jordanian rule, and even though not only they, but their neighbors too, owners of the adjacent plots, have always known that this is their land.

The demolition made waves after written and filmed reports appeared on pro-settler Web sites. The latter also enthusiastically made a point of identifying the partners in this invasion of the homeland's lands: the EU and Oxfam (Belgium).

Khader Shibak of Halhoul received his stop-work injunctions in August 2008, four days after he had begun work. Up until 10 years ago, he and his brother had land planted with grapevines and almond trees. In late 2000, a military camp was set up on the mountain peak. That, and the travel restrictions during the intifada that began late that year, prevented the family's access to both the vineyard and the orchard. In 2008 the army camp was removed, and the family decided to reclaim and rehabilitate its land - and to plant new trees.

Both the Jabers and the Shibaks - both beneficiaries of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees project - were asked to show the Israeli authorities the documents proving their ownership of the land and their right to cultivate it. That is an expensive and time-consuming process that involves fees, a lawyer, trips to the Beit El headquarters of the Civil Administration, and digging through archives, with results that often do not satisfy the Israeli authorities, with their very flexible definition of state land and private land. Both families got stuck in the middle.

Hani Zema'ara of Halhoul, 56, wanted to reclaim three dunams of his land. His work was also stopped. Zema'ara's land, incidentally, was cultivated before 1993, but his crops were destroyed when the Hebron bypass road was paved. He actually brought all the necessary documents to show the Israelis that he is the owner of the land - including a detailed area map and plan sketched by a surveyor especially for him. He invested NIS 3,500, which he doesn't have, in obtaining all the necessary papers. More than a year has passed, and he is still waiting for a permit. The almost completed terraces on his plot stand out in their aridity, on the slope of the mountain. "For Israel, when we work on our land, it's as if we killed an Israeli," is how a member of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees puts it.

European officials who are involved in the funding process are convinced that the Civil Administration has become more stringent in recent years in acting against Palestinian farmers, under pressure from the settlers in general and from the Regavim association in particular. Regavim, which calls itself "the movement for preservation of the nation's lands," is steadily expanding its work of detecting Palestinian "violations" in Area C.

A Regavim spokesman told Haaretz that the organization "is taking a very serious approach toward the illegal takeover by Arabs of lands in Area C in Judea and Samaria, including by means of agricultural cultivation designed only for this purpose.

"Regavim is following with concern the increasing involvement of foreign countries and entities in establishing facts on the ground unilaterally, while violating the laws of the State of Israel and brazenly undermining its sovereignty ... Regavim calls on the Foreign Ministry to convey an unequivocal message to the international parties, and state that Israel is very upset by their behavior and demands that they immediately desist.

"The Regavim movement is pleased to hear that the Civil Administration has responded to its demands and has been enforcing the law in an egalitarian manner, among Arabs as well."

At the time of publication, the Civil Administration had not responded to Haaretz's questions.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Philippines: Farmer dies in grenade blast in Aurora

By Dennis Carcamo ( Updated January 18, 2010 02:01 PM

MANILA, Philippines – A farmer died after a grenade exploded in a tobacco plantation in Aurora province this morning, police reported today.
The victim, Rolly Galiciay, 38, suffered several shrapnel wounds after the explosive device went off at the tobacco fields in Brgy. Villa Fugu, Aurora.
Initial report disclosed that Galician was about to install a water pump around 6:45 a.m. in the area when the blast happened.
Police are now looking into how the grenade ended in the place.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Argentina: Campesino land taken by force

Intercontinental Cry

Campesinos are demanding recognition of their rights and calling for an end to logging and violence after a family was violently evicted from their land, two weeks ago, in the Argenine Province of Juyjuy.
According to a statement from the family, employees from the company KRAM SA, which is owned by a relative of the Argentine Ambassador to Bolivia, illegally evicted them to make way for a new transgenic soy plantation on their land.
During the eviction, Gloria Mamani, an 80 year-old Campesino (farmer), was beaten and dragged across the ground.
Gloria’s son, Juan Mamani, tried to stop the employees from carrying out the eviction by firing a warning shot into the air. However, police from the nearby town of Palma Sola were called in. “Instead of defending the lawful owners of the land,” the police arrested Juan; Gloria; Gloria’s husband; and Armando Ortega, Juan’s Uncle.
The four family members were all later released: Juan was held for a period of four days, until January 4; and the rest of the family was released the day after the eviction, on December 31.
“They killed our animals, they shot them[...], they disposed of the whole ranch of cattle, horses and goats, the pigs, they shot everything. They poison[ed] our water, we don’t have drinking water” says Gloria’s granddaughter. “We are trying to organize to see how we can stop them.”
The Mamani family, along with other Campesinos near Palma Sola in the Argentine province of Jujuy, also say the government’s land use plan, which approved the logging of 1,000 hectares in Juyjuy, is fraudulent because it was “enacted by decree of the provincial executive when it should have been made by the legislature by law.”
The government also failed to hold public hearings, and did not consult local stakeholders including Campesinos and Indigenous communities in the region.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Killing civilians triggers demonstration in S Afghan province



An Afghan man accompanies a dead Afghan boy as the vehicle heads to Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009. Villagers in southern Afghanistan claimed an overnight air strike by international forces killed several civilians, including children. (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq)

November 5, 2009

KABUL, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- A crowd of Afghans came to the streets of Helmand's provincial capital Lashkargah in south Afghanistan Thursday and denounced what they described arbitrary killing of civilians.

"Around 100 people carrying some dead bodies in Lashkargah Thursday morning accused NATO-led forces of killing nine civilians and calling on the government to investigate and punish those responsible," a protestor and demonstrator Hajji Hafizullah Khan told Xinhua.

He added that a NATO plane dropped a bomb on a family who were busy harvesting corn in their land in Babaji area outside Lashkargah, killing nine persons, including three children.

Meantime, spokesman of provincial administration Daud Ahmadi in talks with Xinhua confirmed the incident but said that all those killed were Taliban insurgents.

Taliban purported spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi in talks with media via telephone from undisclosed location claimed that all those killed in the bombardment were not Taliban fighters.

A similar incident, which claimed the life of a civilian in the eastern Khost province, also took hundreds of people to the street on Thursday.

:: Article nr. 59766 sent on 05-nov-2009 15:31 ECT

NATO strike kills nine civilians in Helmand (Photogallery)


LASHKARGAH , Nov 5, 2009 : The body of a teenager killed by a rocket attack of the NATO-led soldiers lies in a vehicle after the residents of Babaji brought the body to the provincial capital, Lashkargah, as a protest against the killing of nine civilians. PAJHWOK/Zainullah Astanakzai

LASHKARGAH , Nov 5, 2009 : Two civilians killed by foreign troops in southern Helmand province late Wednesday night. Relatives of the victims brought the dead to provincial capital as a protest. PAJHWOK/Zainullah Astanakzai

The dead body of a local civilian lies in a civilian vehicle after he was killed in a rocket attack in the southern Helmand province late Wednesday nigh. PAJHWOK/Zainullah Astanakzai

An Afghan man accompanies a dead Afghan boy as the vehicle heads to Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009. Villagers in southern Afghanistan claimed an overnight air strike by international forces killed several civilians, including children. (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq)

Afghan men peer into a car carrying a dead Afghan man in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq) 

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Mexico must investigate torture of two peasant farmers

Amnesty International

28 October 2009
The Mexican authorities must carry out an impartial investigation into the torture of two members of a peasant organization in Chiapas State, after they were arrested without a warrant, Amnesty International has said.

Roselio de la Cruz González and José Manuel de la Torre Hernández , who are currently held in a state prison, were blindfolded, bound and beaten during their interrogation, their lawyer said.

Roselio de la Cruz was beaten and threatened with death, while officials held a plastic bag over the head of José Manuel de la Torre until he almost suffocated. He was then forced to inhale water until he passed out.

Both men were forced to sign papers which they were not allowed to read.

Amnesty International also expressed its concern for a third member of the same organization, José Manuel Hernández Martínez, who is being held 2,000km away, where he is unable to see his lawyer and family.

All three men are accused of illegally occupying land in 2005.

Roselio de la Cruz González and Manuel de la Torre Hernández were both detained by Chiapas state police on 24 October.

The arrests took place during a raid in the Venustiano Carranza municipality on the homes of several members of Organización Campesina Emiliano Zapata (“Emiliano Zapata” Peasant Organisation, OCEZ).

José Manuel Hernández Martínez, a fellow OCEZ member, was arrested on 30 September.

On 16 October he was moved to a federal prison 2,000 km away. This is too far for his family and lawyer to visit him, meaning he is effectively held incommunicado.

Amnesty International has urged the Mexican authorities to:
  • guarantee  that Roselio de la Cruz and José Manuel de la Torre will not be tortured further or otherwise ill-treated;
  • conduct an impartial investigation into their torture, with those responsible brought to justice;
  • ensure that the two men are either released immediately, or charged promptly with a recognizably criminal offence and tried fairly according to international standards, with any evidence obtained through torture ruled inadmissible;
  • ensure that José Manuel Hernández Martínez has immediate access to his family and lawyer.